The Penguins are turning into a broken record with the production of their first line of Chris Kunitz
-Evgeni Malkin-James Neal.
The trio combined for eight points in Pittsburgh’s dominating 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at CONSOL Energy Center Sunday night.
Malkin scored two goals, Kunitz notched one goal and three points and Neal chipped in three assists.
The three men combined for 11 points in the Penguins’ 8-5 triumph against Winnipeg on Saturday afternoon. They’ve totaled 19 points over the last two games.
Malkin has now scored a goal in eight straight home games, tying for second in franchise history, matching the output of Neal earlier this season (Oct. 11 to Nov. 15). Owner/legend Mario Lemieux holds the record at 11 consecutive games (Jan. 5, 1996 to Feb. 23, 1996).
“He’s dominating every time he’s on the ice,” Kunitz said. “It feels like he’s got a chance to score a goal or set up a play. It’s definitely fun to be out there.”
For the second straight game, the Pens found themselves trailing 2-0 in the first period after Steve Downie scored twice in an 11-second span. Although it’s not the way the team wanted to start the game, the Pens still showed that no lead is safe against them.
Pittsburgh got on the board with a power-play goal late in the first period, but it was a dominant second period that really changed the complexion of this game and set the tone.
The Pens scored three goals and outshot the Bolts by a 19-9 count. When the game was over, Pittsburgh had a 41-23 shot advantage.
“I thought our second period was perhaps our best of playing Pittsburgh Penguins ice hockey,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “We tilted the ice and played with a lot of speed, played in the offensive zone, when it came out we went right back in. We really hemmed them in.
“That’s the pace and where we need to play. It was extremely evident in that period. That second period was maybe one of our best of the year.”
LETANG DOUBLE THREAT
Pens defensemen Kris Letang
and Brooks Orpik
were the lucky pair in charge of shutting down scoring sensation Steven Stamkos. Stamkos leads the NHL with 37 goals and carried a five-game scoring streak into the contest.
After 60 minutes of hockey Stamkos came away with zero points on the scoresheet, ending his scoring streak.
Letang not only stepped up defensively, but was a threat on the other end of the ice by chipping a goal and three points. More on Letang’s performance here.
JOHNNY BE GOOD
Goaltender Brent Johnson
was finally able to put together a winning performance for the Penguins.
Johnson made 21 saves en route to winning his first game since Dec. 3. He was able to shake off two goals from Downie 11-seconds apart halfway through the first period.
“I feel like I haven’t had much success here at home,” Johnson said. “It didn’t look that great from the start, but I just focused. I kept saying to myself,
‘It’s 0-0’ and the guys did everything from there.”
But even the goals Johnson allowed weren’t entirely his fault. The first shot was deflected off the stick of defenseman Paul Martin
and altered its flight pattern. The second was a backdoor plan where Johnson had little chance to stop.
“For the first one it gets deflected on the way through and knuckles on him and then he gets a backdoor tap in that I’m not sure he could do anything with,” Bylsma said. “We’re down 2-0 and battled back. (Johnson) made some saves and was solid. We got the win for Brent and deservedly so.”
Many of Johnson’s teammates had taken the blame for his previous losses. They were especially happy to see him get the win.
“It was nice to get one for ‘Johnny,’” Kunitz said. “He had a great game.”
SWITCHIN' IT UP
The Pens switched up their defensive pairings early in the first period and the move seemed to pay off. Deryk Engelland
skated with Paul Martin
and Matt Niskanen
was paired with Zbynek Michalek
“We won the game and afterward, we didn’t give up any goals,” Michalek said. “I think it served a purpose and gave our team a little spark. We didn’t have a good start and needed to play better, and I think we did the rest of the game.”
Author: Sam Kasan